Dazzling Bravo hands Mumbai big win
For the second time in two meetings between these teams, Kings XI Punjab batted first and scored 119, but unlike the game in Durban, there was no redemption in the field this time as Mumbai Indians swept to an eight-wicket win to move up to 11 points and fourth in the points table. The win was set up by Mumbai's offspinners - Harbhajan Singh, JP Duminy and Ajinkya Rahane returned combined figures of 4 for 29 in nine overs to launch a stunning comeback. Dwayne Bravo ensured a hiccup-free run-chase with a magnificent unbeaten 70 in an innings full of expansive drives and pulls.
Mahela Jayawardene's absence due to a leg injury sustained during the previous game hit Punjab badly: not only did they miss his calm presence in the middle order, it also meant there were six left-handers in the top eight, since his replacement was Luke Pommersbach. That suited Sachin Tendulkar's offspin theory perfectly, and Punjab didn't help their cause with some reckless shot-making and brainless running between the wickets.
After the first five overs, though, it seemed this match would be a run-fest just like the previous one of the day, when Ross Taylor's heroics had lit up Centurion. Punjab rattled along to 50 off a mere 32 balls, with Sunny Sohal (43 off 23) plundering boundaries at will, either shuffling across his stumps to flick to leg, or giving himself room to carve sixes over point. Soon, though, Harbhajan came into the attack, beat Kumar Sangakkara with his first three deliveries, and from there Punjab had little to cheer as Tendulkar quickly latched on to the offspin theory.
Coming in to bowl in the eighth over, Harbhajan immediately settled into a magnificent rhythm. Bowling from round the stumps to the left-handers, he flighted the ball, got it to drift in, and the spin away sharply. Sangakkara was clueless off the first three deliveries, and then lost that contest comprehensively when he played all over one from Harbhajan's next over.
Duminy was soon pressed into the attack, and he responded with two strikes in his second over, first getting Wilkin Mota to hoick one to Harbhajan, who juggled repeatedly before holding on, and Yuvraj Singh, who paid the price for hitting against the turn. The twin offspin success prompted Tendulkar to try Ajinkya Rahane, and that move paid off too, as Pommersbach played a rash head-in-the-air shot that typified Punjab's approach.
In between all the spin trouble, Punjab contributed to their own downfall with some extremely sloppy running between the wickets. Mota gave it away with one such effort, making no effort to get back into his crease when Tendulkar misfielded at midwicket.
The bowlers had done much more than had been expected of them, and Bravo and Tendulkar ensured the run-chase would be a canter. Punjab nailed a couple of wickets - including that of Sanath Jayasuriya - to give them some initial hope, but Bravo, who survived a tough caught-and-bowled chance off Irfan Pathan early in his innings, ended the momentary high with a fearsome assault on Sreesanth which turned the momentum completely Mumbai's way.
Only 14 had come off the first four overs when Sreesanth came into the attack, and Bravo duly seized the opportunity, pulling him for four, straight-driving and flicking him over long-on for two glorious sixes, and then flicking through midwicket for another four as the over leaked 21.
Tendulkar soon joined in the fun, dropping down to No.4 and playing himself back into form after a run of low scores. The spinners caused a few problems, but Bravo trusted his footwork, going down the pitch and striking Yuvraj for a straight six. Piyush Chawla spun a few past the bat, Brett Lee bowled a fiery spell and tested the batsmen with pace and bounce - Bravo copped one on the helmet late in his innings - but with such a paltry target before them, the batsmen were never under any pressure. Tendulkar carved a few slog-sweeps through and over midwicket, Bravo finished it off with a spanking pull shot, and Mumbai ended the evening feeling much better about their semi-final chances than they had when they began the match.
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo